Not English Make: The Saga of the Lend-Lease M1911s

The British, along with their Australian and Canadian cousins, had at least a passing affinity with the M1911 platform going back to the days of the Great War. Canadian troops carried the hardy John Browning-designed pistols on the Western Front as early as 1914 and the “daring young men and their flying machines” of the RAF often had .455-caliber M1911s along for their fight against the Red Baron and his Flying Circus, ordered on a special contract.

Fast forward to WWII and the M1911 was commonly issued to elite Commando and Parachute units– the product both of early commercial contracts with Colt and wartime Lend-Lease production passed through U.S. Army channels to London.

However, the Brits made sure to double-check these guns through the Birmingham and London proof houses (it’s not like there was a war on or anything), and in the process, these guns often received upwards of a half-dozen post-production proofs and stamps, one of the most glaring was “Not English Make,” just so there wouldn’t be any confusion that it wasn’t a fine Webley or Enfield product.

From left to right, the U.S. Property stamp, Birmingham proof house stamps,” NOT ENGLISH MAKE” under the manufacturer’s (Ithaca) serial, “Released British Govt. 1952” and US ARMY model number– and the gun has numerous other marks on the barrel and left side

I recently had a chance to look at a couple of beautiful circa 1943 Lend-Lease .45s that were passed on to Mr. Churchill and the gang and profiled them over at my column for

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